Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Telemarketing for Hollywood Values

So SIW got a call from a telemarketer, and then a followup call, about values in Hollywood movies, and how it is bad for the children, etc., and so he posted about it. He complained that in the first call, the telemarketer's end of the conversation seemed not to match exactly what SIW had answered, and furthermore, that they didn't realize in the second call that he had been referring to his neice and nephew in the first call. Further, at the end of the second call, they tried to sell him a subscription to their film service.

I worked for a while in the Telemarketing industry (as a programmer), so perhaps I can lend some insight to exactly went on here.

The reason the telemarketer's end of the conversation did not match with SIW's responses so well was that the telemarketer was reading from a script. This is either a computer program or a stack of paper from which the telemarketer reads. Depending on the callee's response, the telemarketer goes to different pages and question numbers and reads a specific canned response. The script prevents telemarketers from fumbling, and thus guides the conversation from beginning to end. So of course the telemarketer partially ignored what SIW said. He found the closest match, followed the directions to go to question X, and read that response.

Why the two calls? Because of the Do-Not-Call List. People can sign on to this so as not to be bothered by telemarketers selling them stuff, and this is enforcible by law - companies that violate this can face stiff fines.

However, there are two relevant exemptions. The first is that if you have a prior relationship with the callee, you may call them and not face a fine. Thus, for example, if a customer sends an email asking a question, he may be called back, even though he is on the Do-Not-Call List.

Secondly, there is an exemption for people conducting surveys. Both presumably those people conducting surveys cannot sell you something at the end.

Thus, call centers set up a clever way to get around the law. They divide their energies into two campaigns. The first calls you up and asks if you want to take a survey. If so, they give a short survey. Here, it was a 90 second pitch and a few questions if you agreed with it.

They don't really care about the answers. They care about converting your number to a kosher number. (This they do even for people not on the Do-Not-Call List, so that they don't have to keep track.) They ask if they can call back for a follow-up. When you say yes, they have established a prior relationship, and you have agreed to take their call, so your number is now kosher for them.

In the second call, they look up whatever information was put into specific fields in the database. They would just write down how many kids - not specific relationship to said kids, unless there was a field for it. The purpose of this second call is to sell you something, which they are now allowed to do. To keep up the pretense, they begin the same way they did before, but at the end of the call, they try to sign you up.

Monday, November 28, 2005

parshat Toledot: I Am | Esav (is) Your Son

Yaakov misleads his father in parshat Toledot. In Bereishit 27:18-19:
יח וַיָּבֹא אֶל-אָבִיו, וַיֹּאמֶר אָבִי; וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֶּנִּי, מִי אַתָּה בְּנִי. 18 And he came unto his father, and said: 'My father'; and he said: 'Here am I; who art thou, my son?'
יט וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל-אָבִיו, אָנֹכִי עֵשָׂו בְּכֹרֶךָ--עָשִׂיתִי, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ אֵלָי; קוּם-נָא שְׁבָה, וְאָכְלָה מִצֵּידִי--בַּעֲבוּר, תְּבָרְכַנִּי נַפְשֶׁךָ. 19 And Jacob said unto his father: 'I am Esau thy first-born; I have done according as thou badest me. Arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.'

There is a midrash made famous by Rashi that explains that when Yaakov tells his father "I am Esav your firstborn," he was really saying "It is I. Esav is your firstborn."

Ibn Ezra, (before rejecting this approach, gives two formulations. Either:
  1. Anochi = I am who I am. Esav Bechorecha = Esav is your firstborn.
  2. Anochi = It is I. (This is said silently.) Esav Bechorecha = Esav, your firstborn. (But meaning Esav is your firstborn.) This is said loudly, so that Yitzchak can hear.

Thus, Yaakov was not really lying.

People tend to look at this midrash as Artscrolling the biography of the Avot, and thus some have a negative reaction to it. They would ask (correctly), "am I allowed to lie in such a manner and it would not be considered wrong?" Of course not.

Yet there are other midrashim which take Yaakov to task for his words in this event (specifically "Arise"), so I do not think one can just dismiss this as an attempt to make the Avot perfect, or at least only such an attempt. We should consider the various elements that contributed to the formation of this midrash.

A. Religious Motivation
Of course, we should not discount the religious motivation to make the Avot paragons of virtue, and thus use midrash to rewrite Biblical history. Such seems to be how Siftei Chachamim takes it. In his commentary on Rashi, he uses the term chas veshalom - that Yaakov could lie. He then goes on to grapple with how Yaakov could say "Esav is your bechor {firstborn}" when without lying when Yaakov already purchased the bechora!

B. Philosophical Motivation
This seems to be how Ibn Ezra takes the problem motivating the midrash. That is, Yaakov is a prophet, as he has visions and messages from God. A prophet is the recipient, or conduit, of God's Absolute Truth, and so he himself must be perfect in this regard. Lying, even in a situation that absolutely requires it, would cause a fault to one's character that would seemingly preclude one's being a prophet.

Ibn Ezra eliminates this philosophical problem by distinguishing between two types of prophet: the one who is an agent to deliver God's commandment, and the one who merely in told (or tells) about future events. It is only the agent delivering God's commandment who must not be tainted by lying.

Ibn Ezra concludes by giving several examples from Tanach of prophets who lied when it was required.

C. Syntactic Motivation
The ambiguity of Hebrew syntax lends itself to allowing such an interpretation. While English has the copular "is," Hebrew omits it. Thus, Esav Bechorecha can mean either "Esav your firstborn" (which would be placed with Anochi to mean "I am Esav your firstborn"), or "Esav is your firstborn."

D. Accentual Motivation
The rereading of the pasuk actually works well with the trup. The trup is:
יט וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יַֽעֲקֹ֜ב אֶל־אָבִ֗יו אָֽנֹכִי֙ עֵשָׂ֣ו בְּכֹרֶ֔ךָ עָשִׂ֕יתִי כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּ֖רְתָּ אֵלָ֑י קֽוּם־נָ֣א שְׁבָ֗ה וְאָכְלָה֙ מִצֵּידִ֔י בַּֽעֲב֖וּר תְּבָֽרְכַ֥נִּי נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃
There is a pashta on אָֽנֹכִי֙ and a zakef on בְּכֹרֶ֔ךָ. Both are disjunctive accents, which divide, as opposed to the munach on עֵשָׂ֣ו, which is a conjunctive accents, which joins. The pashta is a disjunctive accent which splits in two a clause ending in a zakef (see Wickes on this point). The result is that the trup tells us to divide Yaakov's statement into:

עֵשָׂ֣ו בְּכֹרֶ֔ךָ

Try laining the phrase, and see how the trup supports the midrashic reading.

It is not clear when the specific orthography of trup, or even the specific signs, came into being, but I have evidence that some method of accent dividing the verse was in existence as far back as Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel.

Still, the trup is no proof that the midrashic reading is correct, for two reasons. First, if this trup were irregular and not what was to be expected, one could simply say that that reading came about because of the midrash, rather than vice versa. Secondly, the trup is exactly what we would expect, with the division of pashta on this first noun. We can see this by comparing it to the other examples of "Anochi X Y," which have identical trup. And so, the trup would be the same, on syntactic grounds, even if we are not to logically divide Yaakov's statement as per the midrash.

Still, it is nice that the trup partially reinforces the midrashic reading.

E. Thematic Motivation
There are elements in the narrative that would make us think that Yaakov does not wish to mislead his father. Partially, this is character - Bereishit 25:27 describes him as אִישׁ תָּם, but even more, Yaakov is reluctant to mislead his father, even as the reason is fear of getting caught.

Specifically, this was all Rivka's idea, not Yaakov's, and he objects to her:

יא וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב, אֶל-רִבְקָה אִמּוֹ: הֵן עֵשָׂו אָחִי אִישׁ שָׂעִר, וְאָנֹכִי אִישׁ חָלָק. 11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother: 'Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man.
יב אוּלַי יְמֻשֵּׁנִי אָבִי, וְהָיִיתִי בְעֵינָיו כִּמְתַעְתֵּעַ; וְהֵבֵאתִי עָלַי קְלָלָה, וְלֹא בְרָכָה. 12 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a mocker; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.'
יג וַתֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִמּוֹ, עָלַי קִלְלָתְךָ בְּנִי; אַךְ שְׁמַע בְּקֹלִי, וְלֵךְ קַח-לִי. 13 And his mother said unto him: 'Upon me be thy curse, my son; only hearken to my voice, and go fetch me them.'

Further, it is his mother who took the garments of Esav and the goat skins to disguise Yaakov - he comes up with none of this. We could then read reluctance into misleading his father. This interpretation of אָנֹכִי עֵשָׂו בְּכֹרֶךָ would allow him to hold back a bit in his misleading, thus showing his reluctance, even as he does succeed in misleading.

F. Motivation of Textual Parallels
This holding-back that Yaakov does can actually be found in the text without resorting to rereading. Later in the narrative, his father suspects that he may in fact be Yaakov, and asks again to confirm.

ד וַיֹּאמֶר, אַתָּה זֶה בְּנִי עֵשָׂו; וַיֹּאמֶר, אָנִי. 24 And he said: 'Art thou my very son Esau?' And he said: 'I am.'
Speiser (in Anchor Bible) translates this as "Is it really you, my son Esav?" and Yaakov's reply as "Certainly," but this translation loses some of the delicious ambiguity of the text. All Yaakov says is אָנִי, "It is I." This can certainly be read as deliberate obfuscation, pretending to answer in one way, a falsehood which misleads, while actually stating a truth.

The midrash might easily extrapolate from Yaakov's second reply to his father - אָנִי - and apply it to his first answer - אָנֹכִי. The rest of the statement needs reinterpretation, but then both of Yaakov's statements are of the same form.

G. Literary Motivation
This literary device that I just mentioned, in which character A is in the know and character B is not, and A tells B a truth in a way that misleads, is a device one sees elsewhere in literature. For example, in "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe, one character knows that he plans on killing the other, but the other does not know this:

"Enough," he said ; "the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough."

"True - true," I replied ; "and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming you unnecessarily - but you should use all proper caution. A draught of this Medoc will defend us from the damps."

The short story is full of such exchanges. Another example, within Torah, is Avraham and Yitzchak on the way up the mountain, in which Yitzchak does not know that he is to be slaughtered. In Bereishit 22:7-8:
ז וַיֹּאמֶר יִצְחָק אֶל-אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו, וַיֹּאמֶר אָבִי, וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֶּנִּי בְנִי; וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה הָאֵשׁ וְהָעֵצִים, וְאַיֵּה הַשֶּׂה, לְעֹלָה. 7 And Isaac spoke unto Abraham his father, and said: 'My father.' And he said: 'Here am I, my son.' And he said: 'Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?'
ח וַיֹּאמֶר, אַבְרָהָם, אֱלֹקִים יִרְאֶה-לּוֹ הַשֶּׂה לְעֹלָה, בְּנִי; וַיֵּלְכוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם, יַחְדָּו. 8 And Abraham said: 'God will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.' So they went both of them together.
One midrash interprets Avraham's statement as: "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering," and if not "my son." And they "both go together," one armed with the knowledge of what is to come, and the other unaware.

Or we could say that Yitzchak is aware at this point, which takes the narrative in a different direction.

The point is that both midrashim seem motivated by the same literary motivation - the delicious device of words which seem to say one thing but really mean another. This is more obvious in Yaakov's answer אָנִי, but as I said, seems to be carried to his other answers as well.

H. Motivation of the Tension Between the Moment and Destiny
The best way to understand a midrash is to read it in its original source. In this case it is attributed to midrash Tanchuma. I did not (yet) look it up there, but I found the following in Bereishit Rabba. The midrash there does not merely divide, but states: "I am the one who my descendants will in the future accept the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai. However, Esav is your firstborn."

This first part of the midrash is not mentioned by Rashi, but perhaps it can help explain the motivation. The narrative calls up conflicting emotions in the reader. On the one hand, in the moment, it seems that Yaakov is stealing the blessing and misleading his father. On the other hand, he is one of the Avot, and this blessing is essential for the future of the Jewish nation, who are the good guys (=us) and will accept the Torah on Mount Sinai. This conflict and tension might not be only on the part of the reader, but also on the part of Yaakov. Thus, he has his reasons for claiming it - Anochi (=Destiny), yet viewed only in the moment, perhaps Esav is in the right and is entitled to it - after all, Esav is the firstborn.

I hope that I have shown that there is more to the midrash than a superficial treatment would yield. Of course, this does not mean that on a peshat level, Yaakov did not say "I am Esav your firstborn."

Update: For the sake of completeness, and to bolster my thesis that every element in a midrash must come from text and not come in to being ex nihilo, I should explain the reference to the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai. The word אָנֹכִי, besides being compared with אָנִי, which stands in the same position, is also taken as a reference to the 10 commandments, which start with the word אָנֹכִי.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

parshat Chayyei Sarah: Followup to The sons of Keturah

Last week on parshablog, I had a post about when exactly Avraham married Ketura, and suggested that it may have happened much earlier.

I should have pointed out how it can be made to work out even without appealing to this, though I do not regard my suggestion to be forced in any way. However, to make sense on the more midrashic level, why Avraham would take another wife:

According to those who take Keturah as Hagar, it is obvious. He was reluctant to drive her away in the first place. Now that Sarah had died and would not be troubled by Hagar's presence, he could take her back and thus make things between them somewhat right.

Even with Keturah and Hagar as two separate individuals, it still is not farfetched to imagine he took a wife at such an old age. Sarah died when Avraham was 137, and he died at 175. Thus, he has another 38 years of life. Avraham kept all the mitzvot in the Torah, even Rabbinic ones, and the Rambam writes (Hilchot Ishut, 15:16)

אף על פי שקיים אדם מצות פרייה ורבייה, הרי הוא מצווה מדברי סופרים שלא ייבטל מלפרות ולרבות, כל זמן שיש בו כוח--שכל המוסיף נפש אחת מישראל, כאילו בנה עולם; וכן מצות חכמים היא שלא יישב איש בלא אישה, שלא יבוא לידי הרהור, ולא תשב אישה בלא איש, שלא תיחשד.

Or, as Hashem says in Bereishit 2:18:

יח וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֱלֹקִים, לֹא-טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ; אֶעֱשֶׂה-לּוֹ עֵזֶר, כְּנֶגְדּוֹ. 18 And the LORD God said: 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.'

Posts so far for parshat Toledot

Two Questions on Parshat Chayyei Sarah

Q: Why did Yitzchak wait until Chayyei Sarah to get married (24:67)?
A: Until then, he wasn't in that parsha.

Q: Why did Avraham marry Keturah all the way at the end of parshat Chayyei Sarah (25:1)?
A: He really wanted to beforehand, but now he didn't have to worry about ruining his kid's shidduchim.

And one for Toledot, for which I have no answer:
Q: Why does the third pasuk (25:21) say that Yitzchak prayed for his wife Nochach (וַיֶּעְתַּר יִצְחָק לַיהוָה לְנֹכַח אִשְׁתּוֹ)? Wasn't his wife named Rivka?

Friday, November 25, 2005

parshat Chayyei Sarah: The sons of Keturah

At the end of parshat Chayyei Sarah, we are told that Avraham took another wife, Keturah, and had six children from her, and from them, grandchildren. Bereishit 25:1-6:
א וַיֹּסֶף אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח אִשָּׁה, וּשְׁמָהּ קְטוּרָה. 1 And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah.
ב וַתֵּלֶד לוֹ, אֶת-זִמְרָן וְאֶת-יָקְשָׁן, וְאֶת-מְדָן, וְאֶת-מִדְיָן--וְאֶת-יִשְׁבָּק, וְאֶת-שׁוּחַ. 2 And she bore him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.
ג וְיָקְשָׁן יָלַד, אֶת-שְׁבָא וְאֶת-דְּדָן; וּבְנֵי דְדָן, הָיוּ אַשּׁוּרִם וּלְטוּשִׁם וּלְאֻמִּים. 3 And Jokshan begot Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim.
ד וּבְנֵי מִדְיָן, עֵיפָה וָעֵפֶר וַחֲנֹךְ, וַאֲבִידָע, וְאֶלְדָּעָה; כָּל-אֵלֶּה, בְּנֵי קְטוּרָה. 4 And the sons of Midian: Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
ה וַיִּתֵּן אַבְרָהָם אֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ, לְיִצְחָק. 5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.
ו וְלִבְנֵי הַפִּילַגְשִׁים אֲשֶׁר לְאַבְרָהָם, נָתַן אַבְרָהָם מַתָּנֹת; וַיְשַׁלְּחֵם מֵעַל יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ, בְּעוֹדֶנּוּ חַי, קֵדְמָה, אֶל-אֶרֶץ קֶדֶם. 6 But unto the sons of the concubines, that Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts; and he sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
Did he really marry Keturah after Sarah's death. I thought he had everything (24:1) he could want?! Is he having a last fling with a second family? Furthermore, what is the point in giving us all these seemingly unimportant details?

Another question. Yitzchak's birth was miraculous, not just because Sarah was old but also because Avraham was old. Yet here he marries another woman after Sarah's death, such that he must be even older, and yet he is able to bring forth six sons!

I believe the correct answer, on the level of pshat, is: who says that he married Keturah *after* Sarah's death? Ain mukdam umeuchar baTorah. And there is a very good reason why here Ain mukdam umeuchar baTorah applies.

In some of my postings on parshablog, I refer to the Documentary Hypothesis. I do *NOT* accept it, in that I do not think there were multiple authors. However, the One Author composed it in multiple streams, or perspectives. What they like to call "P" is concerned with the macro-scale of events, and typically covers the lives of people in one or two psukim. In contrast, what they call "J" is more focused on the personal. Thus, "P" acts as a framework in which "J" highlights specific events, zooms in on them, and tells all the relevant details.

When a "P" account is placed after a "J" account, the reader might be confused in thinking that one happens immediately after the other. In fact, what happens is a summary of the life of the person, and his descendants, for we are now moving on to the next person. If a "J" account is placed after a "P" account, it is zooming in on one of those details mentioned in the "P" account, but there might be events in the "P" account that happened after the "J" account. For an example of this, see my recent post on Lech Lecha about the order of Hashem's command of Lech Lecha, and Avraham's leaving Ur Kasdim, leaving Charan, and Terach's death:

Now, Avraham was having difficulty having children. He asks God about this in Bereishit 15:2 and on. God promises him descendants. Later, Sarah gives her handmaiden Hagar to Avraham so that he will have children, and they will be reckoned Sarah's children. See "go in, I pray thee, unto my handmaid; it may be that I shall be builded up through her" in Bereishit 16:2. Compare with the same language used by Rachel in giving her maidservant to Yaakov.

This does not preclude Avraham from taking other wives (concubines) at the same time. Even while other wives produced children, Sarah still would want her own, either through her maidservant or when that soured, directly. Keturah might have been taken before or after Yishmael's birth, and even before Sarah gave him Hagar.

Bereishit perek 24, the finding of a wife for Yitzchak, is the last detailed event in Avraham's life, and thus we find out the specific details. It is a "J." (YKVK is used in 24:1.) However, that story terminates in 24:67.

The next pasuk begins a macro, genealogical account, to sum up Avraham's life and all of his descendants, which ends at the end of parshat Chayyei Sarah (or more possibly, the first pasuk of parshat Toledot). Parshat Toldot begins another one of these personal, detailed accounts.

Why mention all these details? If you read Beowulf, you'll see similar genealogical lists. To cite one summary:
The poem begins with a genealogy of the Danish royal family. Scyld Shefing, the founder of the dynasty, becomes King of the Danes not through wealth (for he comes from an impoverished family) but through his ability to sack the enemies. He has a son named Beow (called Beowulf), also called a great king because he gave his treasures to his men "to make sure that later in life his beloved companions will stand by him." Upon Scyld's death, the people bury him and his treasures at sea in a traditional Germanic ceremony. Beow comes to the throne, and has a son, Healfdene. Healfdene, in turn, becomes the father of Hrothgar, the King of the Danes at the beginning of the story.
People back then *loved* genealogical lists. Furthermore, whereas we have no clue who any of these people are, and so it seems an irrelevant detail, people back then knew many of the names mentioned. Many are the start of new nations - Midian, Sheva, etc. There is a significance of which we are simply unaware. The genealogical list here is relevant to show God's fulfillment of His promise to Avraham to make him an Av Hamon Goyim. At the same time, the pasuk tells us that they were sent away with other gifts, and Yitzchak is considered the only legitimate heir.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Parallelism in Shir HaShirim 7:12-8:4

Note that much of this is an exercise is applying a specific methodology. Personally, I have some doubts about whether much of the methodology is useful or that it produces true results.
I follow here the divisions given by the setumot (rather than given by Gordis or Hakham), such that Shir HaShirim 7:12 begins the song, rather than 7:11. Also, all references to trup are based on Wickes.
Shir HaShirim 7:12-13:
יב לְכָה דוֹדִי נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה, נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים 12 Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.
יג נַשְׁכִּימָה, לַכְּרָמִים--נִרְאֶה אִם-פָּרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן פִּתַּח הַסְּמָדַר, הֵנֵצוּ הָרִמּוֹנִים; שָׁם אֶתֵּן אֶת-דֹּדַי לָךְ. 13 Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see whether the vine hath budded, whether the vine-blossom be opened, and the pomegranates be in flower; there will I give thee my love.
Framing these two pesukim are the words לְכָה דוֹדִי and דֹּדַי לָךְ - they thus form an inclusio bracketing this one idea.

The first line has לְכָה דוֹדִי נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה. A is לְכָה דוֹדִי and B is נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה. A introduces the idea that the woman calls the man to come with her someplace. B echoes this idea, since נֵצֵא is plural, and they are going together. Thus, נֵצֵא parallels לְכָה. There is nothing in B to explicitly parallel דוֹדִי in A, for this is unneccesary, as נֵצֵא means that both of them are going. We thus have a ballast variant, and we fill the space with a specification of where they are to go - הַשָּׂדֶה. Thus, we might even say according to Lowth that this is a synonymous parallelism. It is easier to say it is synthetic parallelism, though, as in A there is a call to the lover and in B there is a specification of where they will go.

From a post-Lowthian perspective, we see development from A to B. A is the mere calling to the lover to come to/with her, while B is the specification of where they should go. הַשָּׂדֶה is not there to provide ballast, but rather דוֹדִי was not repeated so as to make space for the specification. In A, the woman stands alone, calling for her lover to take an action, while in B, he is with her, and they will go together to the field - thus the 1st person plural נֵצֵא, which includes her. There is an advancing of the narrative via snapshots. B echoes A, but advances the narrative a bit as well, for now they are (in her description of what they should do) going into the field.

The next line is נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים, נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים. A is נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים and B is נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים.

However, before proceeding, note how נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים advances the idea presented in נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה. There are major syntactic differences between לְכָה דוֹדִי and נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה, but not between נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה and נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים, not to mention נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים.a

לְכָה is a verb directed at another individual, and is 2nd person singular. נֵצֵא is 1st person plural. Also, דוֹדִי is the subject, the one who should come, while הַשָּׂדֶה is the destination. The two verbs thus assign entirely different theta-roles (under theta-theory) to the two nouns.

However, when we consider נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה together with נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים and נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים, we see they are all of the same form. The verb is jussive and 1st person plural. The nouns all possess the definite article, and all convey destination. We are seeing snapshots of their trip together.

We would have thought that travelling out to the field was a day's excursion. נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים shows us they are to go for an extended trip, such that they will need to spend the night in a nearby village. Thus, she seems to be a city maiden, who wants to go with her lover out to the coutryside. Villages are related to fields in that both are in a rural setting, as opposed to commonplace urban settings.

This is taking כְּפָרִים as villages, as does Gordis. However, Hakham notes here and in many other places (in which it fits even better, and thus proves it) that כְּפָרִים does not mean villages but rather refers to a type of spice. כְּפָרִים is the plural of kofer rather than kefar. Thus, they might not be going out to the countryside (הַשָּׂדֶה) and then sleeping in a village, but rather sleeping in the field, among these spices.

The trup is therefore not all bad in terms of its division. The division I proposed above matches Gordis (baruch shekivanti), but the trup is:
לְכָ֤ה דוֹדִי֙ נֵצֵ֣א הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה נָלִ֖ינָה בַּכְּפָרִֽים׃
The zaqef and the tipcha both subdivide silluq, and thus the zakef must operate first. We thus have:
לְכָ֤ה דוֹדִי֙ נֵצֵ֣א הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה
נָלִ֖ינָה בַּכְּפָרִֽים

The pashta subdivides a phrase ending in zakef, and thus we have:
לְכָ֤ה דוֹדִי֙
נֵצֵ֣א הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה

The tipcha subdivides a phrase ending in silluq, but in נָלִ֖ינָה בַּכְּפָרִֽים there are only two words in the phrase, rendering a subdivision unneccessary. Yet the tipcha is present to serve a musical purpose, as a pretone for the silluq.

We thus have the trup marking off the parallelism I mentioned earlier, of לְכָ֤ה דוֹדִי֙ in A and נֵצֵ֣א הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה in B, accomplishing this via a pashta. We also have the trup marking off another parallelism, between the complex phrase C, לְכָ֤ה דוֹדִי֙ נֵצֵ֣א הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה, which is a call to go out to the field, and D, נָלִ֖ינָה בַּכְּפָרִֽים, which describes the time spent in the field. There is a slight advancement in narrative, since in C they are going to the field and in D they are in the field, sleeping, but still, it is an acceptable parallelism.

Hakham will not redivide pesukim in the text, and he keeps the pasuk division, putting a space between לְכָ֤ה דוֹדִי֙ נֵצֵ֣א הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה and נָלִ֖ינָה בַּכְּפָרִֽים. He also makes this note about בַּכְּפָרִֽים being the plural of kofer, and so the parallelism works out quite nicely.

Something else is to be said for parallel between נֵצֵ֣א הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה and נָלִ֖ינָה בַּכְּפָרִֽים, and that is that we have seen this parallelism before. We must digress to consider a parallelism I have thought of before, but probably has not been noted by any modern scholar. This parallelism is to be found in Shir Hashirim 1:13-14:
יג צְרוֹר הַמֹּר דּוֹדִי לִי, בֵּין שָׁדַי יָלִין 13 My beloved is unto me as a bag of myrrh, that lieth betwixt my breasts.
יד אֶשְׁכֹּל הַכֹּפֶר דּוֹדִי לִי, בְּכַרְמֵי עֵין גֶּדִי.
14 My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna in the vineyards of En-gedi.
Taking verse 13 as A and verse 14 as B, we have almost synonymous parallelism. צְרוֹר הַמֹּר, "a bag of myrrh" in A parallels אֶשְׁכֹּל הַכֹּפֶר, "a cluster of henna," in B. דּוֹדִי לִי, "my beloved is unto me" is identical in both A and B. However, בֵּין שָׁדַי יָלִין, "that lieth betwixt my breasts," seems a mismatch for בְּכַרְמֵי עֵין גֶּדִי, "in the vineyards of En-gedi."

However, we should reread the word שָׁדַי - not that the masorah is wrong, but the word resonates with another possible pronunciation, which we should consider. Change the shin to a sin. This produces saday. This could mean "my fields," but the possessive form is unnecessary. It could simply mean "fields," or even "field." This is because the heh is transforming to a yud in certain instances. A proof of this is in Tehillim 96:12:
יא יִשְׂמְחוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְתָגֵל הָאָרֶץ; יִרְעַם הַיָּם, וּמְלֹאוֹ. 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof;
יב יַעֲלֹז שָׂדַי, וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ; אָז יְרַנְּנוּ, כָּל-עֲצֵי-יָעַר. 12 Let the field exult; and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy;
where the word does not mean "my fields," or even "fields." (Note that it is paired with the singular בּוֹ.) Now we have an excellent match of בֵּין שָׂדַי, "between the fields," and בְּכַרְמֵי עֵין גֶּדִי, "in the vineyards of En-gedi." The field matches the vinyard. Of course, A still has יָלִין and B does not, but this is a ballast variant.

Now that we see this parallelism in the first perek, we can apply it to the seventh perek as well.

Recall that we are trying to find links between A, לְכָ֤ה דוֹדִי֙ נֵצֵ֣א הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה, and B, נָלִ֖ינָה בַּכְּפָרִֽים. We saw many of these terms in the first perek. In the first perek we had בֵּין שָׁדַי יָלִין, which we reread as "that sleep between the fields." Here, we have הַשָּׂדֶה in A followed immediately by נָלִינָה in B. In the first perek, we had אֶשְׁכֹּל הַכֹּפֶר, and here we have the plural form (according to Hakham) בַּכְּפָרִים. In the first perek we had דּוֹדִי לִי, and in A, we have לְכָ֤ה דוֹדִי֙. All these terms are have been related earlier.

As I mentioned earlier, the second line is נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים, נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים. A is נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים and B is נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים.

From a syntactic perspective, we have a perfect match. נָלִינָה matches נַשְׁכִּימָה and בַּכְּפָרִים matches לַכְּרָמִים. Even though syntactically, נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה is similar, morphologically speaking, these two are even closer. נָלִינָה and נַשְׁכִּימָה both begin with na (though with a kametz/patach distinction) and end with a kametz heh. There is even more sound parallelism - they both end ima/ina, and mem and nun are in a consonant group which switches off (lamnar).

Similarly, בַּכְּפָרִים and לַכְּרָמִים are syntactically related, more than הַשָּׂדֶה. Both בַּכְּפָרִים and לַכְּרָמִים begin with a preposition ("in" and "to"), followed by a plural noun with the definite article. In contrast, הַשָּׂדֶה is missing the preposition (though it is implicit), and is a singular, rather than plural noun, though it does have the definite article.

The words בַּכְּפָרִים and לַכְּרָמִים are also phonologically related. They rhyme, and have the same vowel pattern (absent in הַשָּׂדֶה). Much of this can be attributed to their shared syntactic features, but there is more. Both roots lead off with a kaf and have a resh, though in different positions. The letters which differ, the mem and the peh, belong to the same phonological groups, the labials (בומפ). Thus, there is an echo effect from one to the next, that links the two together and moves us forward.

Semantically, there is a difference between the two. נָלִינָה works well against נַשְׁכִּימָה because they are opposites, but בַּכְּפָרִים compared with לַכְּרָמִים does not work as well. If we take Hakham's translation of בַּכְּפָרִים as a type of spice, then it is not bad. They go to sleep among the (growing) spices, perhaps in the field, and wake up early to go to the vinyard. Under Lowth, we might call this synonymous parallelism, but it might also be synthetic parallelism. If we take is as villages, like Gordis, then it is even more difficult to pair it with לַכְּרָמִים.

However, we do not really need parallelism in every single detail. We have syntactic and phonological parallelism, and thus semantic parallelism is not important.

Furthermore, there is semantic parallelism, just not between A and B. Rather, we need to go a bit earlier, and match נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים to נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה. While more distant syntactically and phonologically than נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים, it is actually closer semantically. In נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה, the intent is that they will go forth into the field. The preposition le is implicit. הַשָּׂדֶה is the perfect counterpart for לַכְּרָמִים - one is a field, and the other a vineyard. Indeed, נַשְׁכִּימָה does not only mean "wake up early," but "wake up early" to go somewhere, and thus can be related to נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה. Perhaps we should not talk about A and B, but rather A, B, and C, with a synonymous semantic and syntactic parallelism between A and C, and a syntactic and phonological parallelism between B and C.

This once again moves us forward in the lovers' excursion into the countryside. They went to sleep together among the spices, or in the village, and wake up early the next morning to enjoy the delights of the spring. There is perhaps an intensification from merely going into a single field (in A) to getting up early in anticipation to go into many vineyard full of blossoming plants (in C). Thus is intensification from singular to plural, in the change from the general going to the specific, and from the somewhat interesting field to the more delightful vineyards. There is also a change from peaceful going to sleep among the spices, or in the village (in B) to waking up and going forth to see the blossoming plants, which is much more active and exciting.

The trup, I would note, is not bad. It reads:
נַשְׁכִּ֨ימָה֙ לַכְּרָמִ֔ים נִרְאֶ֞ה אִם־פָּֽרְחָ֤ה הַגֶּ֨פֶן֙ פִּתַּ֣ח הַסְּמָדַ֔ר הֵנֵ֖צוּ הָֽרִמּוֹנִ֑ים שָׁ֛ם אֶתֵּ֥ן אֶת־דֹּדַ֖י לָֽךְ׃

While we might have wanted נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים in the previous verse, the other two elements, נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה and נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים work together opposite נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים. Further, based on the rules of trup, the first half of the verse is to be divided:
נַשְׁכִּ֨ימָה֙ לַכְּרָמִ֔ים
נִרְאֶ֞ה אִם־פָּֽרְחָ֤ה הַגֶּ֨פֶן֙ פִּתַּ֣ח הַסְּמָדַ֔ר הֵנֵ֖צוּ הָֽרִמּוֹנִ֑ים

which is syntactically exactly how the verse functions. Everything up to the etnachta is indeed a specification of what they will do when they wake up early in the morning to go out to the keramim.

The next line is נִרְאֶה אִם-פָּרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן פִּתַּח הַסְּמָדַר, הֵנֵצוּ הָרִמּוֹנִים. Again using Wickes' rules for division of trup, we find that the Masoretes had the same. They first divided:

נִרְאֶ֞ה אִם־פָּֽרְחָ֤ה הַגֶּ֨פֶן֙ פִּתַּ֣ח הַסְּמָדַ֔ר
הֵנֵ֖צוּ הָֽרִמּוֹנִ֑ים

which is a nice division along semantic lines - the first refers to vines and vine blossoms, and the second refers to flowering pomegranates. However, they divide נִרְאֶ֞ה אִם־פָּֽרְחָ֤ה הַגֶּ֨פֶן֙ פִּתַּ֣ח הַסְּמָדַ֔ר in two using the pashta (because there were more than three words in the phrase), thus giving:

נִרְאֶ֞ה אִם־פָּֽרְחָ֤ה הַגֶּ֨פֶן֙
פִּתַּ֣ח הַסְּמָדַ֔ר

There is thus an A/B/C line, though with a slightly closer semantic relationship between A and B. Our analysis will follow in their footsteps.

The word נִרְאֶה applies to A, B, and C, as does the word אִם, though it only occurs in A. They want to see all the beautiful plants in full flower. פָּרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן appears to be in a synonymous parallelism with פִּתַּח הַסְּמָדַר. Both פָּרְחָה (budded) and פִּתַּח (blossomed) are verbs connoting development of the vine on the way to blossoming, and both הַגֶּפֶן (vine) and הַסְּמָדַר (vine blossoms) are nouns referring to a part of the vine that so develops. הֵנֵצוּ הָרִמּוֹנִים is also part of the synonymous parallelism. The verb הֵנֵצוּ (flowered) also is a verb connoting flowering and הָרִמּוֹנִים (pomegranates) are also plants which flower. Thus, there is a close semantic synonymous parallelism.

There is also a close phonetic relationship between A and B, absent in C, matching the closer semantic relationship between A and B - they both refer to the vine, while C refers to pomegranates). פָּרְחָה and פִּתַּח both begin with a peh and end with a het in the last syllable.

In fact, when we consider it, A and B actually have a syntagmatic, rather than paradigmatic relationship. Each is a stage in the development of the vine. A describes the vine itself developing buds. B continues not with the vine, but with the buds, which were closed in A and in B, open as vine-blossoms. Thus, there is a progression, with B describing the next step of A. Together, A + B describe the vine developing flowering blossoms. These are set against C, which describe a different plant, the pomegranate, flowering. This pattern of A || B || C, but furthermore, A + B || C, is one we observed in the previous line: נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה, נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים, נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים. And in fact the trup gives the same division.

An additional point. Jastrow tries to emend בַּכְּפָרִים in the previous line to baggefanim, presumably to semantically match לַכְּרָמִים, as well as to semantically match A and B in this line. I see many attempts at emendation as evidence that the word to be emended resonates with the other word. Thus, for example, in נַזְכִּירָה דֹדֶיךָ מִיַּיִן in Shir HaShirim 1:4, even though the word means "we shall inhale," and fits perfectly, the fact that some try to emend to נַשְׁכִּירָה, "we shall be drunk," is evidence that the word resonates with that meaning. In our example, Comparing kpr to gpn, the kaf and gimel are both in the phonetic group beged kefet., peh is identical in each, and the nun and resh are in lamnar.

הֵנֵצוּ calls to mind נֵצֵא from the previous line, giving sound parallelism, which helps with the inclusio.

The next line, שָׁם אֶתֵּן אֶת-דֹּדַי לָךְ displays no internal parallelism. It concludes one phase of the song, and forms an inclusio with לְכָה דוֹדִי, on a phonetic, though not semantic level. Even as this line closes the previous phase, in acts as a bridge to the next phase. For the next line is:הַדּוּדָאִים נָתְנוּ-רֵיחַ, וְעַל-פְּתָחֵינוּ כָּל-מְגָדִים. We have a parallel of דֹּדַי to הַדּוּדָאִים, and אֶתֵּן parallels נָתְנוּ.


חֲדָשִׁים, גַּם-יְשָׁנִים; דּוֹדִי, צָפַנְתִּי לָךְ

To be continued...

Posts so far for parshat Chayyei Sarah

  • The Pluperfect יֹשֵׁב a(2005)
    • Relevant to parshat Vayera and Chayyei Sara, we compare three instances of the verb יֹשֵׁב written deficiently, and show how midrash treats them the same and differently.
  • Proof of Gilgul (2005)
    • It's a joke
  • Why a shalshelet? (2005)
    • An explanation based on the science of trup.
  • Was the Servant of Avraham Eliezer? (2004)
    • An analysis of the identification of Eliezer with the servant of Avraham. Most obviously, Chazal's closed canon approach. But even on a peshat level, we show a reason to equate the two. Why would the Torah not mention it, if so. From the perspective of literature, other people in this narrative are deliberately not mentioned by name - Rivka, Lavan, Betuel - even though their names are known from elsewhere - and this for deliberate literary effect. Compare with the story of Moshe being born and placed in the Nile, where proper names are also deliberately omitted.
  • לוֹ, לוּ, לֹא אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי - part 1 (2003)
    • Aleph and Vav are matres lectiones, "mothers of reading," and in reality can and do fill many vowel roles. What different perspective of the interaction between Efron and Avraham do we get it we revocalize all the above as לוּ and change the locations of pasuk break to always give us לוּ אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי?
  • לוֹ, לוּ, לֹא אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי - part 2(2004)
    • Further thoughts and developments on the same subject. Plus what Tg Yonatan does with this.
  • Waterloo (2003)
    • A joke which matches well with the two aforementioned divrei Torah.
  • Sarah's Daughter (2003)
    • The derivation of a midrash that states that Sarah had a daughter who died on the same day that Sarah died.

parshat Vayera: The Sin of Sodom

The sin of Sodom possibly included Sodomy. Chazal instead stress their cruelty to strangers and their inhospitality.

Why? Where did Chazal get this idea?

Certainly not from an attitude that all homosexual sex between two men only gives pleasure to the more active of the two. That is nonsense. It is nonsense of the type that Rabbis, excellent speakers all, would deliver from the pulpit (except for its slight New-Ageiness), but nonsense nonetheless.

Why nonsense? First show me that the Torah, in either the story of Sodom, or in the command against homosexuality, exhibits this attitude. Show me from the text. Give me text-internal evidence. Don't read back attitudes into the text. In general, people unwittingly read back their own attitudes into the text. Here, it is reading an attitude we don't ourselves hold but are positing, with no proof, that Chazal had.

If you want to understand what drove Chazal to this view, you need to closely examine the text. Do a close reading. Read the midrashim, and see what textual cues Chazal pick up on. Also, read the text in its broader context.

In the case of Sodom, there seem to be reasons on both the macro and micro level for concluding that Sodom's sin was its mistreatment of guests.

A. Goofus and Gallant
A macro-reason is as follows:
Angels came to Avraham in Elonei Mamrei, and the same angels came to Lot in Sodom. The episode in Sodom is related to, and is indeed part and parcel with the episode with Avraham. The angels were treated quite differently in Elonei Mamrei and in Sodom. Since the stories are juxtoposed, on a peshat level, the reader is supposed to contrast the two stories.

I like to say that Goofus and Gallant form a midrashic middah. Follow the link if you are unfamiliar with them, but they were a regular feature in the kids' magazine Highlights. Some common situation was presented (e.g. a classmate forgot his lunch), and Goofus misbehaves and fails at life, while Gallant is, well, gallant, and a goody-two-shoes, and succeeds.

Avraham is Gallant. See to what extremes he goes to give honor to his guests, and treat them like royalty. The midrash there expands upon the great lengths he goes to treat his guests right, but this is obvious even to the casual reader.

Compared with Avraham, Lot's treatment of the guests pales. One midrash picks up on this and compares the two. But forget Lot. Consider the treatment by the people of Sodom. The Sodomites are Goofus. Guests come, and they wish to rape and perhaps murder the guests. What kind of way is that to treat guests?!

This alone is sufficient to account for Chazal's zeroing in on this sin. It is obvious, and has nothing to do with sodomy.

B. Comparison with the concubine of Giveah
Another macro-reason
is comparison with the story of pilegesh beGiveah, starting in Shoftim 9:1. It makes no sense addressing the issue of Sodom without also referencing this story. There, a man comes with his concubine to Giveah, and the men there wish to "know" the man. The owner of the house refuses, and offers the concubine and his own daughter. He sends out the concubine, who is raped and murdered.

There are many many parallels between the two stories of Sodom and Giveah, even in details I did not mention above, as well as in choice of language. This was done consciously by the later author of Shoftim, because he saw the parallels between the two stories. There is also Biblical interpretation at play. Things that might have been interpreted one way if the story in Sodom stood alone are interpreted in a specific other way by the author of Shoftim, thus concretizing that one interpretation.

To give but one example: In Sodom, they want to "know" the man. This might mean "beat him up" or "murder him." Of course, the verb ידע is used on occassion in Tanach to denote sexual intercourse. But still, the verse says nothing explicitly. Lot offers his two virgin daughters. That seems to suggest that they want to "know" someone sexually. But perhaps this is just an attempt at a bribe, so that they will not harm his guest. After all, the Sodomites refuse. (Of course, perhaps one could say this is because they prefer men, and thus we have a third proof...) However, once we make the link to the concubine in Giveah, who the men take and indeed rape and kill, we get a specific interpretation of the actions of the Sodomites as well.

In Shoftim, there definitely is a lack of hospitality. They are compared unfavorably with the gentiles, who presumably would (or might) have treated guests more hospitably. Consider:

יא הֵם עִם-יְבוּס, וְהַיּוֹם רַד מְאֹד; וַיֹּאמֶר הַנַּעַר אֶל-אֲדֹנָיו, לְכָה-נָּא וְנָסוּרָה אֶל-עִיר-הַיְבוּסִי הַזֹּאת--וְנָלִין בָּהּ. 11 When they were by Jebus--the day was far spent--the servant said unto his master: 'Come, I pray thee, and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it.'
יב וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אֲדֹנָיו, לֹא נָסוּר אֶל-עִיר נָכְרִי, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הֵנָּה; וְעָבַרְנוּ, עַד-גִּבְעָה. 12 And his master said unto him: 'We will not turn aside into the city of a foreigner, that is not of the children of Israel; but we will pass over to Gibeah.'
יג וַיֹּאמֶר לְנַעֲרוֹ, לְךָ וְנִקְרְבָה בְּאַחַד הַמְּקֹמוֹת; וְלַנּוּ בַגִּבְעָה, אוֹ בָרָמָה. 13 And he said unto his servant: 'Come and let us draw near to one of these places; and we will lodge in Gibeah, or in Ramah.'
יד וַיַּעַבְרוּ, וַיֵּלֵכוּ; וַתָּבֹא לָהֶם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, אֵצֶל הַגִּבְעָה אֲשֶׁר לְבִנְיָמִן. 14 So they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them near to Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin.
טו וַיָּסֻרוּ שָׁם, לָבוֹא לָלוּן בַּגִּבְעָה; וַיָּבֹא, וַיֵּשֶׁב בִּרְחוֹב הָעִיר, וְאֵין אִישׁ מְאַסֵּף-אוֹתָם הַבַּיְתָה, לָלוּן. 15 And they turned aside thither, to go in to lodge in Gibeah; and he went in, and sat him down in the broad place of the city; for there was no man that took them into his house to lodge.
Nobody took them in. They were left in the street. Talk about lack of hospitality.

That this is wrong is underscored by the exchange with the old man (who plays the part of Lot):

טז וְהִנֵּה אִישׁ זָקֵן, בָּא מִן-מַעֲשֵׂהוּ מִן-הַשָּׂדֶה בָּעֶרֶב, וְהָאִישׁ מֵהַר אֶפְרַיִם, וְהוּא-גָר בַּגִּבְעָה; וְאַנְשֵׁי הַמָּקוֹם, בְּנֵי יְמִינִי. 16 And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even; now the man was of the hill-country of Ephraim, and he sojourned in Gibeah; but the men of the place were Benjamites.
יז וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא אֶת-הָאִישׁ הָאֹרֵחַ--בִּרְחֹב הָעִיר; וַיֹּאמֶר הָאִישׁ הַזָּקֵן אָנָה תֵלֵךְ, וּמֵאַיִן תָּבוֹא. 17 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the wayfaring man in the broad place of the city; and the old man said: 'Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou?'
יח וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, עֹבְרִים אֲנַחְנוּ מִבֵּית-לֶחֶם יְהוּדָה עַד-יַרְכְּתֵי הַר-אֶפְרַיִם--מִשָּׁם אָנֹכִי, וָאֵלֵךְ עַד-בֵּית לֶחֶם יְהוּדָה; וְאֶת-בֵּית יְהוָה, אֲנִי הֹלֵךְ, וְאֵין אִישׁ, מְאַסֵּף אוֹתִי הַבָּיְתָה. 18 And he said unto him: 'We are passing from Beth-lehem in Judah unto the farther side of the hill-country of Ephraim; from thence am I, and I went to Beth-lehem in Judah, and I am now going to the house of the LORD; and there is no man that taketh me into his house.
And this is stressed again later, when the old man urges them not to stay out in the street. Lack of hospitality is a big deal in the story in Giveah, and it is present in the Sodom story as well, if you look closely enough. There is a parallel being made:

In Bereishit 19, Lot sees the angels, and they wish to stay in the street, and he urges them not to, perhaps suspecting what treatment they can expect at the hands of his fellow Sodomites:
א וַיָּבֹאוּ שְׁנֵי הַמַּלְאָכִים סְדֹמָה, בָּעֶרֶב, וְלוֹט, יֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר-סְדֹם; וַיַּרְא-לוֹט וַיָּקָם לִקְרָאתָם, וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אַפַּיִם אָרְצָה. 1 And the two angels came to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom; and Lot saw them, and rose up to meet them; and he fell down on his face to the earth;
ב וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֶּה נָּא-אֲדֹנַי, סוּרוּ נָא אֶל-בֵּית עַבְדְּכֶם וְלִינוּ וְרַחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם, וְהִשְׁכַּמְתֶּם, וַהֲלַכְתֶּם לְדַרְכְּכֶם; וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֹּא, כִּי בָרְחוֹב נָלִין. 2 and he said: 'Behold now, my lords, turn aside, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your way.' And they said: 'Nay; but we will abide in the broad place all night.'
ג וַיִּפְצַר-בָּם מְאֹד--וַיָּסֻרוּ אֵלָיו, וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ; וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם מִשְׁתֶּה, וּמַצּוֹת אָפָה וַיֹּאכֵלוּ. 3 And he urged them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.
We may easily read the inhospitality of the residents of Giveah into the residents of Sodom, in that they would also not have invited the angels into their home, but would have left them in the street.

This is all on a macro-level, and it is all on the level of peshat.

C. The Protection Due A Guest
When someone comes under the shade of one's roof, etiquette, custom and morals all impose an obligation of ensuring that person's safety. Perhaps Lot's action of offering his virgin daughters (or the old man in Giveah's similar offer) was a bit extreme, but to focus on the unfairness to the daughters is to focus on the wrong point and thus miss the message of the narrative. Lot, like Avraham, accorded his guests with great honor and was willing to give up of his own house to ensure their safety.

Lot says:
ז וַיֹּאמַר: אַל-נָא אַחַי, תָּרֵעוּ. 7 And he said: 'I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly.
ח הִנֵּה-נָא לִי שְׁתֵּי בָנוֹת, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדְעוּ אִישׁ--אוֹצִיאָה-נָּא אֶתְהֶן אֲלֵיכֶם, וַעֲשׂוּ לָהֶן כַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֵיכֶם; רַק לָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵל, אַל-תַּעֲשׂוּ דָבָר, כִּי-עַל-כֵּן בָּאוּ, בְּצֵל קֹרָתִי. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters that have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes; only unto these men do nothing; forasmuch as they are come under the shadow of my roof.'
Note the statement רַק לָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵל, אַל-תַּעֲשׂוּ דָבָר, כִּי-עַל-כֵּן בָּאוּ, בְּצֵל קֹרָתִי, "only unto these men do nothing; forasmuch as they are come under the shadow of my roof." This is hospitality. And the Sodomites exhibit the opposite.

Lot's good treatment of his guests - paralleling that of Avraham - in verse 3: וַיִּפְצַר-בָּם מְאֹד--וַיָּסֻרוּ אֵלָיו, וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ; וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם מִשְׁתֶּה, וּמַצּוֹת אָפָה וַיֹּאכֵלוּ = "And he urged them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat" is to be compared with the immediately following action of "all the men of Sodom" who gathered outside his door.

D. The Sodomy Angle
Even if the Sodomites wished to sodomize the guests, this is not their sin. If sodomy were the issue, then there would be no need, from a narrative perspective, to attack Lot and his guests. They could engage in sodomy among themselves! The sodomy is the vehicle by which they wished to abuse guests to their town, and so the sin, on a peshat level, is the mistreatment of guests, not of homosexuality.

Compare with the sin of Onan, of masturbation, known as now as onanism. In Bereishit 38:7-10:
ז וַיְהִי, עֵר בְּכוֹר יְהוּדָה--רַע, בְּעֵינֵי ה; וַיְמִתֵהוּ, ה. 7 And Er, Judah's first-born, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
ח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה לְאוֹנָן, בֹּא אֶל-אֵשֶׁת אָחִיךָ וְיַבֵּם אֹתָהּ; וְהָקֵם זֶרַע, לְאָחִיךָ. 8 And Judah said unto Onan: 'Go in unto thy brother's wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother unto her, and raise up seed to thy brother.'
ט וַיֵּדַע אוֹנָן, כִּי לֹּא לוֹ יִהְיֶה הַזָּרַע; וְהָיָה אִם-בָּא אֶל-אֵשֶׁת אָחִיו, וְשִׁחֵת אַרְצָה, לְבִלְתִּי נְתָן-זֶרַע, לְאָחִיו. 9 And Onan knew that the seed would not be his; and it came to pass when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest he should give seed to his brother.
י וַיֵּרַע בְּעֵינֵי ה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה; וַיָּמֶת, גַּם-אֹתוֹ. 10 And the thing which he did was evil in the sight of the LORD; and He slew him also.
On a peshat level, the sin was not masturbation. It was depriving his brother of offspring within a levirate marriage. The way in which he accomplished this sin was via masturbation. Of course, midrashically, we can take this verse to mean that the sin was the masturbation alone. But not on a peshat level.

Similarly, the sin of Sodom might have involved Sodomy, but the real issue was that they would use this as a means of abusing visitors. (Perhaps this is similar to what the poster mentioned above was saying, but there is a world of difference.)

E. Other Verses In Tanach Referring to the Sin Of Sodom
Chazal would of course be congnizant of other verses in Tanach that identify the sin of Sodom. Thus Yechezkel 16:49-50, mentioned by commenter "Cosmic X" on that post on Maven Yavin:
מט הִנֵּה-זֶה הָיָה, עֲו‍ֹן סְדֹם אֲחוֹתֵךְ: גָּאוֹן שִׂבְעַת-לֶחֶם וְשַׁלְוַת הַשְׁקֵט, הָיָה לָהּ וְלִבְנוֹתֶיהָ, וְיַד-עָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן, לֹא הֶחֱזִיקָה. 49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and careless ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
נ וַתִּגְבְּהֶינָה, וַתַּעֲשֶׂינָה תוֹעֵבָה לְפָנָי; וָאָסִיר אֶתְהֶן, כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאִיתִי. {ס 50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before Me; therefore I removed them when I saw it. {S}

F. Close Readings of Individual Pesukim
Chazal also do close analysis of individual pesukim, something we have not focused on at all until now. Sometimes this will involve midrashic methods, and sometimes just a nuance of the text.

As one example of nuance, consider what happens when Lot goes out to reason with the men of Sodom:

ח הִנֵּה-נָא לִי שְׁתֵּי בָנוֹת, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדְעוּ אִישׁ--אוֹצִיאָה-נָּא אֶתְהֶן אֲלֵיכֶם, וַעֲשׂוּ לָהֶן כַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֵיכֶם; רַק לָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵל, אַל-תַּעֲשׂוּ דָבָר, כִּי-עַל-כֵּן בָּאוּ, בְּצֵל קֹרָתִי. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters that have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes; only unto these men do nothing; forasmuch as they are come under the shadow of my roof.'
ט וַיֹּאמְרוּ גֶּשׁ-הָלְאָה, וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָאֶחָד בָּא-לָגוּר וַיִּשְׁפֹּט שָׁפוֹט--עַתָּה, נָרַע לְךָ מֵהֶם; וַיִּפְצְרוּ בָאִישׁ בְּלוֹט מְאֹד, וַיִּגְּשׁוּ לִשְׁבֹּר הַדָּלֶת 9 And they said: 'Stand back.' And they said: 'This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs play the judge; now will we deal worse with thee, than with them.' And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and drew near to break the door.
In their attack on Lot's legitimacy, they ask how he can play the judge when he is only a
"sojourner." As a newcomer {he split from Avraham a few perakim back}, he has almost the same status as these strangers. Thus, they first make him a non-resident to deprive him of his voice, and then say they will deal with him worse than they will his guests. See how they treat foreigners!

This is all without appealing whatsoever to midrash. Close midrashic reading of pesukim will no doubt yield gems which will serve to bolster this existing theme.

And so, the question posed by ADDeRabbi:
if the problem with Sodom is complete lack of social welfare, why does the Torah virtually ignore that element and focus specifically on this act of sexual violence. It seems out of place.
is no question, and is in fact false. The Torah does not virtually ignore that element of "social welfare." Chazal just read the text a lot more closely, and accurately, than most modern readers do.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Daf Yomi Eruvin 63a; parshat Vayikra; Shemini: Rendering Halachic Decisions Before One's Teacher

I've been learning a bit ahead in Daf Yomi in order to prepare the Rif. I just encountered a sublime midrash that I have seen many times before, but never really thought about it, and so never really appreciated it.

It is forbidden to render a halachic decision before one's teacher. This is discussed in Eruvin 62b-63a, and it is brought down as halacha by the Rif. A brayta also says that the sons of Aharon - that is, Nadav and Avihu - died because they rendered a halachic decision in the presence of their teacher Moshe. The brayta:
They learnt {in a brayta}: Rabbi Eliezer says: The sons of Aharon died only because they rendered a legal decision in the presence of Moshe their master. What was the exposition they made? From Vayikra 1:7:

ז וְנָתְנוּ בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן, אֵשׁ--עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ; וְעָרְכוּ עֵצִים, עַל-הָאֵשׁ. 7 And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay wood in order upon the fire.
so even though fire comes down from heaven, it is incumbent to bring from ordinary fire.
Let us first consider the midrash in a most straightforward manner. The pasuk in pashat Vayikra, which states that וְנָתְנוּ בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן, אֵשׁ--עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, could be taken in one of two ways. We could either say that there is a requirement that fire be there, in order to consume the sacrifice. Alternatively, we could say that the bringing of fire is itself part of the order of service. The distinction between the two is if fire is already there. The sons of Aharon understood from this verse that there was a separate command for the sons of Aharon to bring fire, even if fire is already there - even if there is already Divine Fire already there. And they rendered this decision themselves without asking Moshe.

Before proceeding to the next verse, I would point out that the midrash is taking the phrase וְנָתְנוּ בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן hyperliterally, to mean not just descendants of Aharon but rather to refer to the actual sons of Aharon - that is, Nadav and Avihu.

We now turn to parshat Shemini. We read that a Divine Fire came down from Heaven. In Vayikra 9:24:
כד וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ, מִלִּפְנֵי ה, וַתֹּאכַל עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, אֶת-הָעֹלָה וְאֶת-הַחֲלָבִים; וַיַּרְא כָּל-הָעָם וַיָּרֹנּוּ, וַיִּפְּלוּ עַל-פְּנֵיהֶם. 24 And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat; and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces.
Thus, the fire is already there. Should the sons of Aharon bring additional, non-Divine Fire? We read the next two pesukim, in Vayikra 10:1-2, which detail their actions and punishment: (Note that a connection between 9:24 and 10:1 is not necessary and to make such a connection may well be a midrashic device of semichut = juxtoposition.)

א וַיִּקְחוּ בְנֵי-אַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא אִישׁ מַחְתָּתוֹ, וַיִּתְּנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ, וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלֶיהָ, קְטֹרֶת; וַיַּקְרִיבוּ לִפְנֵי ה, אֵשׁ זָרָה--אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה, אֹתָם. 1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
ב וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי ה, וַתֹּאכַל אוֹתָם; וַיָּמֻתוּ, לִפְנֵי ה. 2 And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
The pasuk calls them "the sons of Aaron" perhaps to make a connection to the pasuk/command in parshat Vayikra. What did they do? Even though a Divine Fire was already present, as we saw in the previous pasuk, וַיִּתְּנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ - just as the pasuk in parshat Vayikra commanded. Further, וַיַּקְרִיבוּ לִפְנֵי ה, "they offered before Hashem," even though Hashem's fire was already present. What did they offer? אֵשׁ זָרָה. Not "foreign fire," but ordinary fire, that is, aside from the Divine Fire which we know was already present.

But they were correct in their decision! Why were they punished? The pasuk concludes: אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה, אֹתָם. Examine the JPS translation of the pasuk: "which He had not commanded them." Note that they capitalize the "H" in "He." Thus, it was a non-Divine Fire which Hashem had not commanded them. The midrash translates the pasuk with a lower-case "h." It was not Hashem who had not commanded them, but Moshe who had not commanded them.

And that was their sin: אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה, אֹתָם.

So much for the straightforward understanding of the midrash. See how involved it is, and how many different pesukim contribute towards the final midrash. People should appreciate midrash!

But that is not what I missed. I missed the deeper message. Let us turn to the homiletic layer of the midrash, and focus on the actual halacha that Nadav and Avihu deduced.

They claimed that even though a Divine Fire is present, there is still an obligation for a fire from a hedyot, a non-Divine fire, to be brought. See the irony yet?

Torah is compared to fire. To give the prime example, consider parshat VeZot HaBeracha, in Devarim 33:2:
ב וַיֹּאמַר, ה מִסִּינַי בָּא וְזָרַח מִשֵּׂעִיר לָמוֹ--הוֹפִיעַ מֵהַר פָּארָן, וְאָתָה מֵרִבְבֹת קֹדֶשׁ; מִימִינוֹ, אשדת (אֵשׁ דָּת) לָמוֹ. 2 And he said: The LORD came from Sinai, and rose from Seir unto them; He shined forth from mount Paran, and He came from the myriads holy, at His right hand was a fiery law unto them.
There was a Divine Fire which descended from Heaven. That Divine Fire was the law of Moshe, the Torah that he brought down. They were in the presence of this Divine Fire, for Moshe was present, and they could have asked him. Instead, they said that even though the Divine Fire is present, it is still incumbent upon the individual to bring his own fire - to deduce and render halacha on his own. In this, they were wrong.

Thus, the specifics of the law that they rendered is emblematic of the problem of their very rendering of the law. And that is why the midrash is sublime.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

parshat Vayera and Chayyei Sarah: The Pluperfect יֹשֵׁב

is instructive as it applies the same midrashic principle to the same word in different locations, producing separate midrashim. We thus see the interaction between scientific application of midrashic rules together and the fuzzier idea of context and theme.

Parshat Vayera begins: {Bereishit 18:1}:
א וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה, בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא; וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל, כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם. 1 And the LORD appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
ב וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים, נִצָּבִים עָלָיו; וַיַּרְא, וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל, וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ, אָרְצָה. 2 and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth,
The purpose of a phrase introduced by a vav hachibur (וְ) is to add a parenthetical remark, so that we know the state of affairs. Thus, on a pshat level, Hashem appeared to Avraham "as he was sitting..." If it had been the vav hahippuch (וַ) instead, this would have been the next action in the sequence: First Hashem appeared to him, and then he sat. All these actions occur in the past, as it always does in Biblical narrative. (The apparently present-tense word יֹשֵׁב is neutral tense, and gets its tense from context.)

The midrash notes that the word יֹשֵׁב is written without the vav we should expect (=deficient spelling), and thus could be revocalized yashav - sat (cited by Rashi; see Bereishit Rabba 48:7). Thus we deduce that Avraham wished to stand because of the Divine Presence.

The commentary Etz Yosef explains that the fact that the word יֹשֵׁב is written deficiently informs us that his sitting was deficient - he wished to stand. The commentary Maharzu explains the past tense yashav teaches that he was sitting, and wished to stand, and Hashem told him to sit, such that it is as if he was sitting now.

I would say that what we have here is the pluperfect. Of course all this happened in the past, as it always does in narrative. However, we hear that this happened in the past of the past = the pluperfect. To cite an example from Wikipedia:
In the sentence "The blind man, who knew that he had risen, motioned him to sit down again" (from Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge), "he had risen" is an example of the pluperfect tense. It refers to an event (someone rises from his seat), which takes place before another event (the blind man notices the fact that the other has risen). Since that second event (the blind man's taking notice) is itself a past event and the past tense is used to refer to it ("the blind man knew"), the pluperfect is needed to make it clear that the first event (someone rises) has taken place even earlier in the past.
Thus, yoshev in the context would tell us that he was sitting when God appeared to him. Yashav in context would indicate that at some previous point in time, he had sat.

The implication is perhaps that now, at the present time in the narrative, he no longer was sitting. Yet there is a tension between the ketiv and the krei, and thus we have that he wished to stand for the Divine Presence, but Hashem told him to stay seated, such that he was still sitting.

This fits into the general theme in the parsha of Avraham's selflessness. According to other midrashim (also fitting into this theme), Avraham was suffering, yet wished to be hospitable. Look how he troubled himself, to run to the guests, beg them to stay, serve them an abundance of food, etc.. Look at how he put God ahead of his relationship with his son in akeidat Yitzchak. Therefore, this yashav/yoshev tension is read in this light.

Later in the same parsha, we have Lot: {Bereishit 19:1}:
א וַיָּבֹאוּ שְׁנֵי הַמַּלְאָכִים סְדֹמָה, בָּעֶרֶב, וְלוֹט, יֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר-סְדֹם; וַיַּרְא-לוֹט וַיָּקָם לִקְרָאתָם, וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אַפַּיִם אָרְצָה. 1 And the two angels came to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom; and Lot saw them, and rose up to meet them; and he fell down on his face to the earth;
ב וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֶּה נָּא-אֲדֹנַי, סוּרוּ נָא אֶל-בֵּית עַבְדְּכֶם וְלִינוּ וְרַחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם, וְהִשְׁכַּמְתֶּם, וַהֲלַכְתֶּם לְדַרְכְּכֶם; וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֹּא, כִּי בָרְחוֹב נָלִין. 2 and he said: 'Behold now, my lords, turn aside, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your way.' And they said: 'Nay; but we will abide in the broad place all night.'
Once again we have the vav hachibbur (וְלוֹט) coming to tell us the situation at the time of the narrative. (In other words, Lot did not sit down after the angels arrived.) Rashi cites the Midrash that that very day they appointed him a judge. Once again, it is the pluperfect. Not just was his state one of "sitting by the gate" {perhaps = judge}, but it is informing us of some earlier action. Earlier that day, he "sat." How so? They appointed him a judge.

Maharzu does a handy job collecting other data in the context that would make us think he was appointed a judge. A gezera shava (comparison of words/phrases) to Moshe sitting to judge the nation, and Yisro's question why he is sitting {to judge} alone. He feels that the deficient spelling of yoshev shows that the appointment was not concrete - it had just been done earlier that day. Futher, we see from elsewhere that shaar, "gate," refers to a place of judgement.

The Midrash itself connects this to a later section of the Sodom incident. When Lot leaves his house to reason with them, in Bereishit 19:9:
ט וַיֹּאמְרוּ גֶּשׁ-הָלְאָה, וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָאֶחָד בָּא-לָגוּר וַיִּשְׁפֹּט שָׁפוֹט--עַתָּה, נָרַע לְךָ מֵהֶם; וַיִּפְצְרוּ בָאִישׁ בְּלוֹט מְאֹד, וַיִּגְּשׁוּ לִשְׁבֹּר הַדָּלֶת. 9 And they said: 'Stand back.' And they said: 'This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs play the judge; now will we deal worse with thee, than with them.' And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and drew near to break the door.
Chazal interpret וַיֹּאמְרוּ גֶּשׁ-הָלְאָה as appointing to a higher position when they like what he says (=סק לעיל) and וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָאֶחָד בָּא-לָגוּר וַיִּשְׁפֹּט שָׁפוֹט as a complaint when they dislike what he says.

Note that in the text, the people of Sodom call him a judge. Perhaps by noting how recently he came ("to sojourn") we see that he was recently appointed a judge.

Thus, different verses work together to establish a single midrash.

The third example is in parshat Chayyei Sarah {Bereishit 23:10}:

ט וְיִתֶּן-לִי, אֶת-מְעָרַת הַמַּכְפֵּלָה אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ, אֲשֶׁר, בִּקְצֵה שָׂדֵהוּ: בְּכֶסֶף מָלֵא יִתְּנֶנָּה לִּי, בְּתוֹכְכֶם--לַאֲחֻזַּת-קָבֶר. 9 that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for the full price let him give it to me in the midst of you for a possession of a burying-place.'
י וְעֶפְרוֹן יֹשֵׁב, בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי-חֵת; וַיַּעַן עֶפְרוֹן הַחִתִּי אֶת-אַבְרָהָם בְּאָזְנֵי בְנֵי-חֵת, לְכֹל בָּאֵי שַׁעַר-עִירוֹ לֵאמֹר. 10 Now Ephron was sitting in the midst of the children of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying:
Once again the vav hachibbur ( וְעֶפְרוֹן) comes to introduce a parenthetical statement. Avraham had asked to speak to Ephron son of Tzochar, and so the text comes to tell us who he is and that he was present. Once again, the midrash (Bereishit Rabba 58:7, cited by Rashi) tells us that he was appointed an officer earlier that day, for it is not fitting for a person of elevated stature to purchase from someone of lower station.

Once again, the pluperfect is at play. He sat amongst them before = earlier that day. As before, the verb yoshev connotes greatness. Perhaps also שַׁעַר-עִירוֹ figures in there. The context - that is the theme, is one of Avraham's greatness. He is a prince among them, and yet he also accords them honor in turn, bowing to them. Given the great respect given Avraham, it is only fitting that he interact with (and bargain with) someone on his level.

Thus, we have here three instances of the same irregularity in the word, and each time it is taken the same way, though the specific interpretation is colored by the context formed by the general theme in the narrative as well as other midrashim which bolster the message.

Of course, there are other examples of yoshev written deficiently which Rashi passed over without comment. That does not mean that they could not have been similarly interpreted - just that they weren't, or not that we know of, or not in a way that Rashi felt contributed sufficiently to a thorough understanding of the story to merit mention. (ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המישבת דברי המקרא)

Monday, November 21, 2005

parshat Chayyei Sarah: Proof of Gilgul

We find evidence for the idea of gilgul in the first pasuk of this week's parsha. The parsha begins {Bereishit 23:1}:

א וַיִּהְיוּ חַיֵּי שָׂרָה, מֵאָה שָׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים--שְׁנֵי, חַיֵּי שָׂרָה. 1 And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.
And the pasuk states שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה.

Alternatively, the pasuk begins יִּהְיוּ חַיֵּי שָׂרָה and then states:
מֵאָה שָׁנָה
וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה
וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים

Yes, it's a joke.

parshat Shlach: Taking וְלֹא-תָתוּרוּ literally

The pasuk in we recite in Shema, in Bemidbar 15:39:

לט וְהָיָה לָכֶם, לְצִיצִת, וּרְאִיתֶם אֹתוֹ וּזְכַרְתֶּם אֶת-כָּל-מִצְו‍ֹת ה, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם; וְלֹא-תָתוּרוּ אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם, וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר-אַתֶּם זֹנִים, אַחֲרֵיהֶם. 39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray;
is not just good moral/religious advice, but safe driving advice as well.

According to UK News:
One-in-five male drivers are so distracted by scantily-clad models - like Kate Moss or Sophie Dahl - on roadside hoardings that they are likely to crash, new research published today claims.

However just one-in-10 women drivers will confess to being captivated by semi-naked male models in adverts.

One-in-four drivers in the UK have become so distracted by roadside objects that they have veered out of their lane, according to the study for Privilege Insurance.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

parshat Vayera: וְהוּא אַחֲרָיו

Sarah overhears the promise that she will have a son, and she laughs. Bereishit 18:10-11:

י וַיֹּאמֶר, שׁוֹב אָשׁוּב אֵלֶיךָ כָּעֵת חַיָּה, וְהִנֵּה-בֵן, לְשָׂרָה אִשְׁתֶּךָ; וְשָׂרָה שֹׁמַעַת פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל, וְהוּא אַחֲרָיו. 10 And He said: 'I will certainly return unto thee when the season cometh round; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.' And Sarah heard in the tent door, which was behind him.--
יא וְאַבְרָהָם וְשָׂרָה זְקֵנִים, בָּאִים בַּיָּמִים; חָדַל לִהְיוֹת לְשָׂרָה, אֹרַח כַּנָּשִׁים. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, and well stricken in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.--
What is meant by the phrase וְהוּא אַחֲרָיו? Rashi and Rashbam give the pshat answer - that it means that that the tent was behind the speaker. Even though we see הוּא and think person, here it refers to the tent -- or perhaps the tent door, while אַחֲרָיו refers to the speaker (one of the three who came in the guise of men).

However, Targum Yochanan and Targum Yerushalmi both give an alternative rendition - that it is Yishmael (וְהוּא) who stands behind the tent (אַחֲרָיו). This matches what you might imagine in the movie version - the camera pans away and we see Yishmael in the background, listening to all this, and hearing that a brother - competition - is to be born.

I would suggest a third, midrashic interpretation. Perhaps וְהוּא refers to the tent door at which Sarah stands, and אַחֲרָיו refers to the tent. Thus, this is not the front door of the tent. which Avraham sat by earlier, but a tent flap on the other side. Perhaps this is why they did not expect Sarah to overhear.

Indeed, in an earlier post, I put forth that the first pasuk of the parsha:
א וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה, בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא; וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל, כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם. 1 And the LORD appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
was the source of the midrash that Avraham had a tent with four entrances. That is, כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם did not modify Avraham's action but rather the location פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל (=East). If a compass direction needs be specified for the door of his tent, presumably he has doors in other compass directions, and would do this to be hospitable, an idea which fits in with the general theme of Avraham's extreme hospitality. Here, in וְהוּא אַחֲרָיו, we might find another door, facing another compass direction.


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